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How to be a more frugal family

Suzi Milovanovic has been a mother of all kinds: stay at home mom, work from home mom, and go-the-office working mom. She blends all these perspectives in her contributions to various local and national print and online publications, tel...

Waste less, save more

By definition, frugality is eliminating waste and avoiding unnecessary expenses on items that you consume. When just one person is at the controls of the family budget, this concept can be overwhelming and frustrating, especially with the constant images beckoning us (and our kids) to buy, buy, buy. Being a frugal family can't work until the entire family learns their parts and finds easy ways to reduce waste and save money. Here are a few money-saving tips to improve your family finances.

Family watching tv on couch

Power off

Cut your electric bills by turning off lights and completely powering off electronics when they're not in use. Is it dinnertime? Turn the TV off and enjoy the conversation and family banter. While flipping a switch or two may not seem substantial at first, the reduced energy usage will be apparent when you look at savings over the year.

My Body
  1. Use less electricity: Power off appliances when not in use.
  2. Cook at home: It's healthier, and a lot less expensive.
  3. Go basic: Sure, we love having 200 channels…but if you only watch 20 of them, what's the point?
  4. Consider downgrading your package.

Dine in

Eating out can be tempting, given the schedules many modern families have, but it's also much more expensive than dining in. Consider some quick and easy recipes that you can plan ahead of time. The average price for a meal at home per person is $5, compared with $12 to $15 in a restaurant. If the average family of four gave up one night a week out, the savings would be almost $1,500 in just one year!

Pay your bills online

Avoid late fees and save a stamp by paying your bills online. Most banks offer free online bill payment that is easy to use and set up. You can even sign up for email account alerts for low balances (to avoid overdraft fees) and pending charges. This also gives you a faster and more accurate picture of where your family's finances stand than if you were to wait for outstanding checks to clear.

Trim the cable

Ask your family if you really need your cable provider's movie package. Set up a chart system of how much you actually watch the expanded channels, then calculate how much it would be if you rented the movie or ordered pay per view instead. You may find that renting the newest movie releases is less expensive than keeping the movie package.

Cut the phone cord

With the unlimited phone packages most wireless phone providers now offer, more and more families are choosing to forgo landlines in their homes and use their cell phones as their primary lines. The least expensive phone package is approximately $20 per month, factoring in the FCC taxes and other usage fees. Set a target "drop dead" date and ensure you have enough time to alert your friends, family, contacts and utilities of the change.

Don't pay for chores

While cleaning the house, cutting the lawn and spraying for bugs may not be the most enjoyable activities for your family members, you can avoid paying someone to do these for you if you divide and conquer. Dedicate one day of the week for everyone to do their chores. Then, look forward to family night after the chores' successful completion.

The road to becoming a more frugal family starts with the concepts of reduce, reuse and recycle. Being frugal doesn't mean starving yourself or your family, or even wearing only donated clothes. It means living life to the fullest while spending and consuming only what is necessary -- and improving your family finances in the process.

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